As proxies for actual emergencies, drills and exercises can raise awareness, stimulate improvements in planning and training, and provide an opportunity to examine how different components of the public health system would combine to respond to a challenge. Despite these benefits, there remains a substantial need for widely accepted and prospectively validated tools to evaluate agencies' and hospitals' performance during such events. Unfortunately, to date, few studies have focused on addressing this need. The purpose of this study was to assess the validity and reliability of a qualitative performance assessment tool designed to measure hospitals' communication and operational capabilities during a functional exercise.
The study population included 154 hospital personnel representing nine hospitals that participated in a functional exercise in Massachusetts in June 2008. A 25-item questionnaire was developed to assess the following three hospital functional capabilities: (1) inter-agency communication; (2) communication with the public; and (3) disaster operations. Analyses were conducted to examine internal consistency, associations among scales, the empirical structure of the items, and inter-rater agreement.
Twenty-two questions were retained in the final instrument, which demonstrated reliability with alpha coefficients of 0.83 or higher for all scales. A three-factor solution from the principal components analysis accounted for 57% of the total variance, and the factor structure was consistent with the original hypothesized domains. Inter-rater agreement between participants' self-reported scores and external evaluators' scores ranged from moderate to good.
The resulting 22-item performance measurement tool reliably measured hospital capabilities in a functional exercise setting, with preliminary evidence of concurrent and criterion-related validity.